After a month or so of somewhat pedestrian showings, Smile PreCure is back in the zone with episode 35, a robot-themed installment reminiscent of the robot series of mecha anime past and present. While the Pretty Cure franchise lacks the history and pedigree that a Gundam would have (though now, I imagine just how strange a decades-old PreCure would look like), the magical girl and mecha genres have always been about selling toys and doing so through immensely enjoyable media.
And this is exactly what this week’s Smile brought about. It’s no Nanoha in terms of unadulterated action, but the spirit of the series tackles on the spirit of merchandise-driven super-herodom through the perspective of the resident Otaku of the cast (and 2012 Saimoe representative, believe it or not), Yayoi Kise. She sweeps up the other girls in her enthusiasm for the in-universe Robotaa franchise, even when confronted by the Bad End trio, who are also caught in the merchandising frenzy.
Not only does Majorina turn Cure Happy into a giant robot, but the two hyper-akanbe summoned by Aka Oni and Wolfrun take the form of giant robots as well. Unlike normal hyper-akanbe, who are directly controlled by their summoners, Oni and Wolfrun pilot them in classic robot-style, as do the girls with Happy-Robo.
The resulting battle is a blend of classic PreCure choreography, mashed up with pilot dialogue and the perfect dose Smile antics, capped off by a remarkably amazing spotlight for Cure Peace, who takes over the entire episode with her charm and enthusiasm (more on her in a bit). The above screenshot is one of numerous amazing angles through which the fight scene is shot, where everything that you would expect from a robot show.
Halfway thorugh, Oni and Wolfrun literally combine their robots together into a winged gattai-akanbe, a combination matched by a formidable Happy-Robo with butterfly wings powered by cure décor a la episode 14. The entire sequence, combined with Hisako Kanemoto’s wonderful performance as Yayoi, made for the best Smile episode in the second half of the series.
Although Smile PreCure is primarily driven by an ensemble cast of five, Yayoi/Cure Peace has always been the flagship Cure of the franchise. She’s the token moe character (moe in the most modern database-sense of the term), but for more reasons than what she originally let on in the beginning of the series. It feels like déjà vu having to explain the “depth” behind Yayoi Kise’s character, but I apologize as a number of details have been added to Yayoi’s backstory that I have missed out on in blogging this series (to note, Yayoi’s spotlight episode with her deceased father is the first episode omitted from my blogging absence).
Depth aside, however, what is brought to the forefront in the most effective way is Yayoi’s unbound enthusiasm for superheroes and robot shows. Her face is superbly animated throughout the episode, namely in the eyes and hand gestures. There’s a remarkable dynamic behind her fandom, above which she ascends, but still has not yet embraced. After Happy-Robo is defeated, it takes encouragement from Miyuki herself to perk Yayoi right back up, as she remembers everything that she is fighting for. It’s the ultimate ideal that a fan strives for, and Yayoi is living it first-hand with her own power.
In the tradition of PreCure, she requires a push from her friends to reach those new heights.
None of this is possible without the remarkable talent of Hisako Kanemoto, who has really come into her own ever since her breakout performance as Ika Musume. She has intensity in her voice that she translates into different types of vocal characterization. The most noticeable of this is her ability to convey enthusiasm and curiosity. As Kanata Sorami in Sora no Woto, Hisako communicated in a variety of ways her love for the trumpet, and portrayed a girl who took in the weight of war through the hopes and dreams of her friends and the village that she protected (in her own way). Ika Musume showcases the curiosity side of Hisako’s character repertoire, a peculiar character who, despite her twisted goals of vengeance against humanity, discovers a whole world of things that humans do. Despite her claims to world domination, Ika conquers the world in her own way, by becoming an important part of it herself.
The two characters here are moe in their own way, and Cure Peace is a culmination of Hisako’s experience with the two. She brings out the enthusiasm of Kanatawith the stubbornness of Ika. She has the idealism of the former but also the latter’s knack for discovery. Within an ensemble cast, Cure Peace is a complete character, and Hisako Kanemoto brings her to life into the most adorable PreCure yet. The audience cheers for her to succeed, and the Peace fandom is perhaps the most vocal yet. Her fanart on pixiv is rivaled by none, and she is even in the group finals of Saimoe, cementing her in the top 16 at the very least. The last time a Cure has made it to the top 8 of Saimoe was Nagisa Misumi/Cure Black from the original Futari wa Pretty Cure, who lost to Nadja Applefield of Ashita no Nadja in 2004. 8 years later, regardless of whether or not Yayoi wins her group finals match, she will have already left her mark on the moe landscape, as well as cement herself in the hall of heroines in the PreCure multiverse.
Yayoi Kise, I salute you with a jan-ken-pon. I wish you luck in future episodes of Smile PreCure; it’s really starting to get good once again!